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Microsoft, Amazon Ink Kindle and Linux Patent Deal 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-a-random-headline-generator dept.
theodp writes "Microsoft says it has reached a wide-ranging IP agreement with Amazon in which each company has granted the other a license to its patent portfolio. Microsoft says the agreement covers technologies in products such as Amazon's Kindle — including open-source and proprietary technologies used in the e-reader — in addition to the use of Linux-based servers. Microsoft issued a news release celebrating the accord, while Amazon declined to comment. 'We are pleased to have entered into this patent license agreement with Amazon.com,' said Microsoft's deputy general counsel. 'Microsoft's patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry, and this agreement demonstrates our mutual respect for intellectual property as well as our ability to reach pragmatic solutions to IP issues regardless of whether proprietary or open source software is involved.' A Microsoft representative declined to say which of its products are covered by the deal."
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Microsoft, Amazon Ink Kindle and Linux Patent Deal

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:50AM (#31243730) Journal
    From Microsoft's press release:

    The agreement provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio and covers a broad range of products and technology ...

    Now Microsoft will be able to sell all its products with just one click [slashdot.org]!

    But seriously where does this end? Will we see the death of Microsoft's .lit format [microsoft.com] in favor of Kindle's .azw? Will Amazon push out and offer Azure on EC2 [microsoft.com]?

    • by gparent (1242548)
      Nah, they'll make it .lizxazw2010
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But i thought Microsoft said >3 character extensions are for losers?

        .docx

        Oh... oh, nevermind.

    • by gtall (79522)

      How does Amazon give access to open source to Microsoft. Would MS already have access to it? Either MS is bullshitting about the meaning or something is nefarious is in the details that MS will attempt to pull out in a future court case against FOSS....probably a bit of both. Come to think of it, MS has been using Amazon's One Click IP when their software blue screens with but one click of the mouse.

      • Why bother (Score:3, Insightful)

        by voss (52565)

        Microsoft doesnt have to sue linux companies, they just reach settlements with companies that use linux, the either

        a) Encourage companies to use microsoft products through FUD
        or
        b) Get IP revenue from settlements.

        If they tried to directly take on linux companies other than SUSE then they would have to disclose the patents.
        Im sure if Microsoft tried to take on Red Hat then they would probably wind up clashing with IBM.

        • Re:Why bother (Score:4, Interesting)

          by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:11AM (#31244680) Homepage Journal

          ...if Microsoft tried to take on Red Hat then they would probably wind up clashing with IBM.

          Speaking of IBM, this quote in the summary hit me:

          'Microsoft's patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry,...

          I always thought IBM had the biggest software patent portfolio. Or is IBM's entire portfolio the biggest, but some of it's hardware, so the software component is smaller than Microsoft's?

          Somebody who knows more about this, please chime in....

          • by Ltap (1572175)
            No, I think it's just a Microsoft rep talking about things he knows nothing about.
          • They probably don't count IBM as a software company, since they sell so much hardware and have so many service contracts. Whereas Microsoft's hardware is pretty small potatoes compared to their software.

            That's just a guess. These people love to crank out superlatives but they have to tailor the market pretty narrowly.

          • by Hasai (131313)

            Hello! We're talking about a Microsoft rep here!

            Just assume every third sentence that comes out of a MS rep's mouth is a flat-out lie, and rest assured all your cognitive dissonance will go away.

        • All of Microsoft's settlements to date have included Microsoft paying large sums of money so that the other company can make use of its patents. Is that any different here? Hey, Microsoft, if you want to throw $10-million my way, I will gladly license all of your bogus Linux patents.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Daengbo (523424)

        It's probably the same patent issues claimed in 2004: Linux potentially infringes 283 patents [zdnet.com].

        • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:48AM (#31244402) Journal

          oh, so you mean the ones never substantiated?

        • So, did Microsoft show Amazon patents that Linux infringes? If so, under clause 7 of the GPL, Amazon must either have an agreement with Microsoft that permits unlimited sublicensing of Microsoft's patents, or they must stop distributing Linux. I'm not sure which outcome I'd consider more amusing.
          • by Dare nMc (468959)

            Not sure it applies, more or less these parts are about distribution in those sections of the GPL. Amazon doesn't distribute the "linux servers" covered by this, so don't need to distribute that code, so that extended patent coverage needs to apply only to people within Amazon.
            The kindle uses open source software, but is linked to closed software, much like the Tivo; (as long as it is not GPLv3 source it is using), the patents can cover any parts that Amazon writes or otherwise isn't GPL2 software; without

    • by autophile (640621) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:34AM (#31244230)

      Will we see the death of Microsoft's .lit format [microsoft.com] in favor of Kindle's .azw?

      Oh, I hope not. Both formats suck compared to epub, and azw (i.e. mobipocket) is an extremely stripped-down version of html. Lit at least has more html functionality. But I hope both formats die.

      My own take is that Microsoft wants to put out an ebook reader which will probably use Amazon's patents, so Microsoft probably told Amazon "Nice patent portfolio you got here. Be a shame if it burned down. You should have insurance!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ltap (1572175)
        Pirates seem to love the Lit format, I have no idea why. Out of all the ebooks I've seen, most are in either lit, pdf, or html. I personally convert 90% of the stuff I get to epub, but most people seem almost idiotically short-sighted - crying about how epub can be DRM'd (password-protected container, I guess), and ignoring the fact that lit is a proprietary format that very little works with properly. Anyone with a brain knows that ePub is the only proper format. My theory is that there's very few people s
        • by Mornedhel (961946)

          Anyone with a brain knows that ePub is the only proper format.

          Would you mind explaining why? I personally have no idea how an ebook format would be superior to another. I don't own an ebook reader and usually don't read ebooks at all, but I'm curious.

          Please enlighten this humble scarecrow.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Ltap (1572175)
            Gladly. The problem with most formats is that they can only be read by proprietary readers, and are thus locked in. The most "free" format is obviously plaintext, then html. Some people use rtf (windows-specific, and less support on other platforms), lit (proprietary) and the various Sony, Amazon, etc formats like AZW.

            ePub is XHTML for the page layout and CSS for formatting. It also has various other files containing XML metadata, and is put in a zip archive. The metadata is used to identify copyright in
        • This could be solved with a LaTeX to ePub utility. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there was one.
        • What's proprietary about LIT? Isn't it just CHM, which itself is just a bundle of HTML compressed using an open and well-known compression algorithm?

          (which isn't to say that ePub is the way to go, if only because it's also HTML-in-a-bundle, and has much wider support)

          Anyway, calibre will happily convert all this stuff back and forth, so it's not a big deal either way. Formats are only a problem when DRM is involved (as, presumably, you can no longer format-shift without breaking it). Which is why I'd very m

    • by Concern (819622) * on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:43AM (#31244340) Journal

      This suggests Microsoft's anti-Linux patent strategy is alive and well.

      For those just getting up to speed:

      Microsoft doesn't feel like competing fairly against open source products. So it attempts to use dubious legal trickery instead.

      This started with SCO - a failed Unix company that took Microsoft investment in exchange for executing a legal attack on Linux vendors and users (based on copyright and licensing issues). The claim: that Linux infringed on their intellectual property rights. Their conduct in the case was truly awful (making the claim but resisting an explanation about what infringed; trying to shake down any and every Linux owner). Latest status here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCO-Linux_controversies [wikipedia.org]

      This was only one aspect of the FUD campaign. Patents were another. Microsoft struck a patent deal with struggling Novel, and it feels very similar to what we see here. The implication: Novel agrees its use of Linux somehow infringed on Microsoft's patents, and that it (and by extension everyone else) must pay Microsoft to use Linux.

      The FSF's response explains the problem:

      http://www.fsf.org/news/microsoft_response [fsf.org]

      The article describes other similar cases.

      Now we have Amazon making a deal. They have far fewer reasons on the surface, but I imagine we'll find out why at some point, and it probably has something to do with a much stronger, non-Linux-related, perhaps non-software patent that Microsoft holds and which they violate. In the process of being sued and settling, Microsoft enticed them to accept terms which included a similar "Linux-FUD" clause - allowing an announcement just like this.

      Although software patents are utterly and obviously ridiculous, and although most first world nations besides the US don't allow them, and although even the US is moving away from them (see Bilski)... even given that many large companies such as IBM have announced that they will defend Linux with their own patent portfolios... even after Microsoft has weathered an antitrust trial (and should feel themselves on thin ice when it comes to anticompetitive behavior)... they appear to still be pursuing a legal strategy of attacking Linux via barratry.

      In the deranged world of software patents, there is not exactly any such thing as sane legal reasoning. But as Microsoft convinces more companies to pay them for their use of Linux, then their patent claim gains a slimy veneer of legitimacy (or so they hope). Otherwise "why would so many people pay them?" This circular reasoning strengthens them in their eventual legal battles to come, as they attempt to hurt (or even end) the use of Linux.

      Of course, this is not just about Linux. Were Microsoft or any other company to succeed at this game, they would effectively make open source software impossible.

      • by Ltap (1572175)

        Now we have Amazon making a deal. They have far fewer reasons on the surface, but I imagine we'll find out why at some point, and it probably has something to do with a much stronger, non-Linux-related, perhaps non-software patent that Microsoft holds and which they violate.

        Or they wish to jointly own and patent every possible method, and jointly charge license fees to everyone for waking up in the morning (since they've patented that method).

      • Awesome (Score:3, Funny)

        by Petersko (564140)
        "...but I imagine... probably has something to do with... they appear to..."

        That's just awesome. You got +5 informative explaining how Microsoft mighht be guilty of unknown shenanigans.

        Slashdot's just plain broken.
      • Microsoft struck a patent deal with struggling Novel, and it feels very similar to what we see here. The implication: Novel agrees its use of Linux somehow infringed on Microsoft's patents, and that it (and by extension everyone else) must pay Microsoft to use Linux.

        Is there any serious disagreement about Linux distributions infringing patents? In a speech against software patents, Stallman cited a whole bunch of patents the Linux likely infringes, as part of his argument that software patents are harmful.

        Anyway, the Novell deal is not Novell agreeing that Linux infringes patent. It is Novell agreeing that business customers worry that Linux might infringe patents. That's one of the reasons these kind of deals are often broad cross licensing agreements.

        • by Concern (819622) *

          Every piece of software ever written infringes patents. No one can determine what patents their work infringes - not even Microsoft. Even if the baby jesus came down from heaven and told you exactly which 20,000 patents you infringe, you are screwed again tomorrow, when another 1,000 are filed.

          If this system sounds retarded, that's because it is. This may have something to do with why every other civilized country rejects the idea that patents can apply to software.

          If there is no assertion that Linux infrin

    • >>>But seriously where does this end? Will we see the death of Microsoft's .lit format in favor of Kindle's .azw?

      Possibly but Microsoft will still win:
      - EMBRACE (amazon's standard)
      - EXTEND (azw with new features which will be MS proprietary & only readable from Windows)
      - EXTINGUISH (because amazon kindles will no longer be able to read the new azw2 format that MS now controls, people will buy the Microsoft Zune Reader instead - Kindles will disappear)

      If you don't know what I'm talking about jus

    • by einhverfr (238914)

      Now Microsoft will be able to sell all its products with just one click!

      Right. No more will you have to double-click!

  • Erm (Score:5, Funny)

    by ilovegeorgebush (923173) * on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:52AM (#31243742) Homepage

    A Microsoft representative declined to say which of its products are covered by the deal."

    Which is like doing the following:
    "Hey dude, I did something really cool!"
    "Oh yeah, what's that?"
    "Not telling! Tee hee!"

  • Anti-trust anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:55AM (#31243780)

    If all copyright holders on software patents start to create bilateral agreements, it will eventually become clear that software patents are only an artificial entry barrier.

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:03AM (#31243856) Homepage

      ...it will eventually become clear that software patents are only an artificial entry barrier.

      Like they already aren't?

      • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:23AM (#31244084)

        To be fair they really are.
        Without patents:

        1: I write some nice software and sell it.
        2a: I make a little money, not enough to quit my day job.
        2b: I don't make money, all I've lost is time.

        With patents:
        1: I try to research previous patents, they're almost unreadable..... I have no money to hire a patent lawyer(barrier to entry one)... so I can't be certain if my idea has already been patented.
        2a: I stop for fear of infringing on someones patent and being sued into the ground.(barrier to entry 2)
        2b: I keep going and write my app... it might be infringing but I don't think it is....
        3a: I make a little money.
        3b: I make no money.
        4: Someone sues me.
        5a: It is infringing- well they pull out records that yes I did view their patent in the course of my research in step 1 and obviously stole their idea. They get tripple damages I lose my house. (barrier to entry 3)
        5b: It is not infringing - so what. I don't have the money for a good lawyer, they win I lose my house.(barrier to entry 4)
        5c: It is not infringing - by some miracle I win.... I'm still left with a pile of legal bills and I lose my house.(barrier to entry 5)

        In theory the patent system could help me by letting me be just like the guys who sue in the above but I don't have the thousands of dollars it takes to get a patent through nor the time.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by westlake (615356)

          1: I try to research previous patents, they're almost unreadable..... I have no money to hire a patent lawyer(barrier to entry one)... so I can't be certain if my idea has already been patented.

          Then what you need to do is to join [or form] a co-op with other independent developers.

          Build an organization that will have the resources to do the necessary research, provide legal assistance and technical support - and - gasp! wheeze! - lobby effectively for your interests.

          Which may not always be the same as t

          • so lets add: having to form a co-op and organise with other people if I want any kind of a chance(barrier to entry 6)

            You really think all this stuff is not far harder than "sit in your basement alone coding until you've got something to sell"

        • by ljw1004 (764174) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:41AM (#31244978)

          With patents:

          1. I write some nice software and sell it (without researching patents)
          2a. I make a little money, not enough to quit my day job, remain below the horizon of any patent-holders, and so nothing arises. The end.
          2b. I make a lot of money; a patent-holder notices and orders me to cease distribution, so I do. The end.
          2c. I make a lot of money; a patent-holder notices and asks for a licensing fee, so I pay it and continue to make not quite as much money. The end.

          No barriers.

          You DO NOT have a duty to research whether your work infringes on prior patents. Lawyers will specifically instruct you NOT to do this research. Moreover, the fact that you came up with the idea yourself is good-faith evidence that there is no patent. (Why? Because patents are notionally only granted for non-obvious inventions, and if you invented it independently then it must be obvious, and therefore a patent on it shouldn't have been granted).

          • by c-reus (852386) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:11PM (#31245322) Homepage

            2d. A patent troll discovers you. You get sued. You lose all your money. The end.

          • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

            So if I invent something, it automatically becomes unpatentable? No, that's not what you meant. If I invent something that someone else invented, it becomes unpatentable. So then I go through the "pending" patents by looking at the store shelves and writing down all of the "patent pending" numbers, then "invent" those, and claim they are non-obvious because they were independently invented and invalidate the legitimate patent?

            That couldn't be what you mean either.

            The race to patent the light bulb should

        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          The best advice I've seen, not that it's necessarily correct, is that you never research patents. If you have the patent in your browser history but you didn't understand it and thought it was unrelated, you can go from infringement to intentional infringement, triple damages.

          If that is true, and it feels true, the only way you can survive is to attempt to patent everything. When you do research for a patent and mention prior art, you'll realize if your patent already exists. By mentioning those patents,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Inconexo (1401585)
      I heart that at an RMS conference years ago. Software patents mean nothing to big companies, who have enough patents to do patent-crossing (I think that was name). Little developers, on the other side, can't take advantage of them, since they have no patents to trade.
      • Of course this also means that if the little guy does get a patent and someone infringes it often the best option is to either sell it to a patent troll or become one.

        If you don't actually make anything then the big company wont be able to countersue for infringing thier patents.

  • by Zerth (26112) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:07AM (#31243886)

    American automakers team up with Japanese automakers to produce an electric car?
    Walmart inks a deal to take over every state's welfare department?
    In an effort to keep Microsoft in the US, Canada becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Google?

    Wait, those last two sound feasible...

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      American automakers team up with Japanese automakers to produce an electric car?

      Japanese automakers already teamed up with French automakers to produce an electric car in the USA; one you will be able to purchase outright, not just lease. It's called the Nissan LEAF. It's also about to be sold with exchangeable battery packs in a couple other countries, with assistance from their governments in building the battery swap network, and under the Renault marque.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Walmart inks a deal to take over every state's welfare department?

      Walmart wouldn't take over what it considers a free employee benefit.

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        Suddenly I have this image of a bright yellow smiley face dodging through a hospital pulling plugs on indigent patients while whistling and singing "We're lowering welfare costs all over the place, so put on a happy face." With long Beeeeeeeeeeeeeps in the background.

    • by http (589131)
      Nah, Google would never take on such a debt laden company.
  • by Akido37 (1473009) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:07AM (#31243890)

    Microsoft issued a news release celebrating the accord, while Amazon declined to comment.

    Microsoft says the agreement covers technologies in products such as Amazon's Kindle

    A Microsoft representative declined to say which of its products are covered by the deal.

    It sounds like Amazon got caught violating one or more of Microsoft's patents, and this deal was arranged to avoid a lawsuit.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      What I got from the statement ' A Microsoft representative declined to say which of its products are covered by the deal." was the product covered was Microsofts ass and subsequently all that issues from it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by walterbyrd (182728)

      It sounds like Amazon got caught violating one or more of Microsoft's patents, and this deal was arranged to avoid a lawsuit.

      Exactly what patent was that? Why is it a secret?

      Is it possible that msft's "patent" was just another one of msft's bogus patents, but it was cheaper for amazon to sign an agreement, rather than spend the next ten years in court?

      • by nschubach (922175)

        it was cheaper for amazon to sign an agreement, rather than spend the next ten years in court?

        Therein lies the problem. It's apparently what makes IP holding a profitable venture.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)
      Was the Kindle using FAT32? Because we know for the TomTom case that rightly or wrongly MSFT holds the patents [wikipedia.org] for FAT32. I personally think Linux distros are pushing their luck continuing to release Fat32 support knowing MSFT holds the patents.
      • by fritsd (924429)
        AFAIK, the problem with Microsoft-TomTom was not that they used FAT32 per sé, but that they dared to use long filenames (oh noes!). THAT's still patented.
        This has apparently been remedied since: LWN article on 2009-06-27 [lwn.net]. I don't know in which versions of the kernel it is patched, though.
        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          There is a couple of problems with that patch that even I, a lowly PC repairman have noticed. One, it will create ONLY long file names OR short, never both. How many devices will actually support that? And if your device only supports short and you plug it into a Windows machine (the whole point of using FAT32 is that ALL three OSes, Linux, Windows, OSX, support it) will Windows support the new design? Will a long file name deposited on there by Windows cause the thing to come to a crashing halt? Two, they

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locutus (9039)
      my first guess would be that this has something to do with the Microsoft extensions to FAT and Amazon's use of those to access VFAT based files on SD cards. I think they dropped the SD support on the latest model but they might already have been caught in Microsoft's patent web with the earlier release of Kindle supporting VFAT. There might be others but this seems like the obvious threat since Tom Tom was hit with it too. So, do the Mono clowns still think that there is nothing to be concerned with runnin
  • by FartKnockerz (1750222) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:09AM (#31243906)

    Microsoft's traditional play of "Extend, Embrace, Extinguish"..

    This most likely has something to do with a Microsoft play towards Windows 7 Mobile and a slate device as an answer to Apple's iPad . Pundits are spewing about Windows 7 Mobile and the fact that it sucked less in comparison to Windows Mobile 6 (in the vein that Windows 7 sucks less than Vista). Said device would be hooked into Amazon's range of eBooks for the Kindle.

    • by Locutus (9039)
      I think this is more about increasing the cost of using open source software since that is really the current and most important threat to Microsoft now. They lost millions on having to bring Windows XP out from retirement and having had to pay off vendors to use it instead of GNU/Linux on netbooks. The eReader market is not unlike the netbook market and it is getting bigger. But, the kicker is that the eReader is highly likely to be a device which grows up into the tablet sector and therefore become part
  • by Richy_T (111409) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:12AM (#31243956) Homepage

    So long Amazon, it was nice knowing you.

    • That's probably all anyone can say at this point.
    • by ignavus (213578)

      There are socially better places to buy books online than Amazon.

      I switched over to BetterWorld books because they devote money to literacy campaigns and have other socially worthwhile goals that I support.

      http://www.betterworldbooks.com/ [betterworldbooks.com]

      So far they have raised over $7.5 million towards global literacy.

      I am not affiliated in any way, I am just a customer. But I like their idea and buy everything there now, instead of Amazon.

  • Microsoft's patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry...

    ..for certain definitions of "the software industry" which exclude the International Business Machines Corporation.

    • Microsoft's patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry...

      ..for certain definitions of "the software industry" which exclude the International Business Machines Corporation.

      They'd probably declare IBM as a hardware and services company, and not in the software business. Gotta love marketers...

    • Well to be fair, how many of Microsoft's patents covers software? And how many of IBM's patents covers software?

      IBM gets a crapload of patents every year, but since IBM has a huge hardware division most of those patents are probably hardware related.

    • by westlake (615356)

      ..for certain definitions of "the software industry" which exclude the International Business Machines Corporation.

      How many patents are cross-licensed between IBM and Microsoft? I am betting the number is greater than zero.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:17AM (#31244004)

    This patent stuff has got to be a gold mine for msft. IP extortion seems to be a brilliant business model.

    February 22, 2010
    Microsoft, Amazon strike patent deal covering Kindle and Linux

    As would be expected, the actual patents that were supposedly violated are not disclosed. For many years msft claimed that Linux violates msft patents, but msft absolutely refuses to disclose which patents.

    Microsoft says the deal grants Amazon patent-related "coverage" for its use of open-source and proprietary technologies in its Kindle e-reader, and its use of Linux-based computer servers.

    At the same time, the deal has the potential to stir new controversy in the tech industry, if it's interpreted as Amazon implicitly endorsing Microsoft's claims that Linux and other open-source technologies violate its patents.

    February 19, 2010
    Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures Could be Biggest Racketeering Operation in the United States and Beyond

    Patent thug Nathan Myhrvold turns out to have over 1,000 patent proxies with which to potentially attack and extort those who do not pay "protection money"; he also spent over $1 million lobbying his government

    THE New York Times has published this report about Microsoft's patent troll Nathan Myhrvold, who is backed by his colleague Bill Gates, his former employer Microsoft, and even Apple. He already terrorises the industry using patents that it spent literally billions of dollars acquiring (not actually working to invent anything of substance).

    http://boycottnovell.com/2010/02/19/nathan-myhrvold-exposed-again/ [boycottnovell.com]

    And here is the NYT article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/technology/18patent.html [nytimes.com]

    I suppose using the US legal system for patent extortion is especially cost effective since msft uses offshore labor for the legal work.

    February 18, 2010
    Microsoft to outsource general legal work to India

    Software giant Microsoft will begin outsourcing general legal work to India after signing a deal with legal process outsourcing (LPO) company CPA Global. The news comes as CPA outlined plans to expand its Indian workforce from 600 to 1,000 by the end of 2011, and hinted at opening another outsourcing centre.

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/microsoft-outsource-general-legal-work-india [lawgazette.co.uk]

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by twiddlingbits (707452)
      I can't imagine lawyers in India that are in-depth knowledgeable about the US Legal System and what is required to file and what arguments to make, not to mention admitted to the bar in the USA Taking depositions and actually going to court would be difficult from India! Maybe those guys type the standard form letters MS sends out alleging patent and copyright violations. Actually their web site says they do all the legwork paralegals normally do like case law and other research, etc for IP law cases. So
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I suppose using the US legal system for patent extortion is especially cost effective since msft uses offshore labor for the legal work

      More to the point, the US legal system is designed to make exploiting the law for profit easy -- for the elite who have the priveledge and resources to do it.

      The more complex and ambiguous the law, the more lucrative and exploitable the law is for those who design the law. Not only does complexifying the law justify insane amounts of power and revenue just to manage it all,

  • Tell us the patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dandart (1274360) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:21AM (#31244058)
    I think MS should tell infringing parties which of its patents are being infringed, otherwise its patent claim should be invalidated due to insufficient proof.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:22AM (#31244066) Homepage

    Microsoft issued a news release celebrating the accord, while Amazon declined to comment.

    Sometimes which dog is barking tells you a lot about what's going on out in the pasture.

  • it's about precedent (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If MS can get some well known companies like Amazon to license open source software for them, then when they approach the next set of companies with an "agreement", they'll have a precedent. Open source violates MS patents, so MS must be paid if you use it, and here's a list of other companies which have already agreed.

  • Microsoft's patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry

    I like to mentally replace 'patent portfolio' with the more accurate term 'bullshit'. It certainly makes this sentence read better. Are companies at point now that lawyers outnumber engineers and software developers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shotgun (30919)

      Are companies at point now that lawyers outnumber engineers and software developers?

      I think you fail to realize the relative productivity of an engineer and a lawyer. Think about how many man years it takes to develop a non-trivial, market ready software product vs filing a legal brief?

  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:08AM (#31244646) Homepage Journal

    Here's some background info on these deals:

    I don't time right now to look into this deal, so if someone could add info to en.swpat.org about it, that would be great. Otherwise I'll do it later.

  • ClearType (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peppepz (1311345) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:24AM (#31244792)
    Perhaps this agreement is about ClearType. It's covered by known MS patents, and that's why subpixel font rendering is disabled in many Linux distributions. Amazon might need it, or some related technology, for its Kindle.
    • Subpixel antialiasing is only applicable to color screens, however (since it requires the use of color subpixels, as the name implies). So far all production eInk readers have been B&W, with only early prototypes of color devices demonstrated.

  • this agreement demonstrates... yet another facet of corporate control. Large corporations can cross-license. Small companies and individual entrepreneurs will continue to get squashed by patents.

    There, fixed that for him.

  • by badger.foo (447981) <peter@bsdly.net> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @01:27PM (#31246518) Homepage
    It struck me that Microsoft over the last few years has made a series of deals with other corporations over patents, but in each case
    • whatever is published is too unspecific to interpret
    • Microsoft's announcement mentions Linux in vague language, with the intention of making it sound less than legit

    What then, if that secret, submarine patent is about something else entirely, or for that matter, does not even exist? For that matter, there could be several threats in play, patent based or otherwise, but anyway the main point of any such deal is to make sure the non-Microsoft party stays quiet, leaving Microsoft free to create the impression that Linux is somehow not quite legit, with no factual basis whatsoever.

    We have no way of actually knowing, but it does appear that the US legal system somehow allows the kind of of behavior I suspect here as long as the actual underlying facts are not available to the public.

    It doesn't even have to be a patent or a real issue at all, given the likely size of Microsoft's legal budget the threat of prolonged litigation backed up by the famous PR machine would be quite sufficient to intimidate smaller players to silence. Most of us are, after all, smaller players than Microsoft.

    All idle speculation of course, but as long as they keep us in the dark about the facts of these deals, speculation will flourish.

    • What then, if that secret, submarine patent is about something else entirely, or for that matter, does not even exist?

      If such a thing does exist, then it's secrecy is part of it's power. You can be fairly sure that if it was revealed, there would be an immediate and concerted effort by the open source community to do any or all of the following..

      • Reimplement patent infringing features without using the patented method
      • Locate and present prior art for these patents
      • Debunk the infringed patents as being obvious
      • Remove inessential but infringing features

      I wouldn't be surprised to find that one or more of the major vendors had an

  • The GPL is not patent friendly. If you distribute GPL code, you have to include royalty free patent licenses to everybody. Or something like that, pardon the vague non-lawyer language, IANAL.

    Anyways, if Amazon distributes the GPL's kernel sources with the Kindle, doesn't it now include access to all Microsoft's patents too? And if it can't because Microsoft won't allow it, doesn't this revoke Amazon's license to redistribute GPL code, and thus sell the Kindle?

  • Some of the posters are speculating that Amazon was infringing some patent that MS holds and that MS came after them with a devil deal.

    I think it's at least possible that the opposite happened - Amazon, with it's history of patent litigation, tried to engage Microsoft on a patent issue... and MS turned around, laughed, and said "Hah! We'll squash you like a BUG. A small one. Unless...."

    It's possible no money changed hands. Amazon is a name recognized by far more people than would recognize Novell or SuSE. J

  • Half infuriated, half ecstatic.

    On one hand, Microsoft's bloat may lend some weight should they shift momentum of their extortion efforts into the direction of others in the industry.

    On the other hand, perhaps this will stack within the mile high evidence showing how software patents are pure bullshit through and through.

    Considering either way, is really a resistance or lashing out with something I believe in. Politicians had better get a clue, it's only sad that they only speak currency rather than logic.

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